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BC Housing ignored community feedback to help its rezoning application

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MEDIA RELEASE - BC Housing proposal for 7th and Arbutus ignored community feedback to help rezoning application: Kitsilano Coalition. FOI request shows community consultation results were misrepresented by BC Housing and its PR firm.

Vancouver, B.C. (March 30, 2022): The Kitsilano Coalition is calling on Vancouver City Council to deny BC Housing’s rezoning application for 7th and Arbutus after an FOI request by the community found BC Housing and its public relations firm, Ideaspace, twisted community input and feedback during the Early Engagement process, which was then misrepresented in the project’s public engagement report. 

“During the public sessions in March 2021, BC Housing said community feedback would be published, however after being unresponsive to follow up requests, a FOI application was opened to ask for the information,” explained Cheryl Grant, a spokesperson for the Kitsilano Coalition. “The details provided by the FOI showed how BC Housing and its public relations company did not accurately represent the Community’s feedback to the city and the neighbourhood.” 

“BC Housing has painted a picture of support in the community when the FOI shows a different truth. For instance in BC Housing’s report they said ‘many community members expressed general support’ and ‘many community members expressed general opposition.’ The truth is 75 per cent of the feedback in the public sessions were against the proposal for a 140-unit single room occupancy tower that’s intended for the hardest to house, people with mental health and addiction issues, but with no real services other than monitored drug use within the building.”

Grant said the community feedback was also clear that most people were asking for housing for families, including single parent and women-led households.

“The report they produced minimized and omitted much of the feedback, and facts were skirted,” added Grant. “The report also implies many community groups, schools, and police were consulted, with no objections, however when members of the coalition spoke to the various groups, including the VPD, it was confirmed this was not the case." 

The Kitsilano Coalition, a community-based association of families, seniors, stratas, local businesses, schools, and neighbourhood organizations, says the entire public process around the proposed development simply sidelined the neighbours because BC Housing and city staff had made up their minds, and they had no regard for how the community wants to build a livable neighbourhood, or any consideration for public safety. 

“The rezoning process before the City is to present fair and factual information to ensure the right solutions are discussed and implemented. Instead, by manipulating information, BC Housing is pushing through a project with serious issues they are refusing to answer,” said Grant. “The proposed tower is not about building safe and inclusive housing at 7th and Arbutus, instead it is about checking a box to house a high concentration of residents with serious issues, with no onsite programs to support recovery. This is a failed model that hasn’t worked in the downtown eastside and other parts of Vancouver, and now BC Housing thinks the solution is to export that model to residential neighbourhoods across our city, and misrepresent the community’s support.”

The coalition says without support or help for the people living in the proposed tower, the residents will simply fend for themselves, and the neighbours who already live in the area will be left to pick up the pieces when things go wrong. At the same time, similar housing projects attract those who want to prey on the vulnerable people living there. 

“Like every neighbourhood in Vancouver we are also seeing the incredible rise in violent assaults and random attacks, and we believe this project’s lack of due diligence is set to cause a further decline in how we feel about public safety,” added Karen Finnan, of the Kits Coalition. “Even if support services and other programs were available, residents of the tower would not be required to sign up for care or help. No one wants a project that would facilitate drug use within the building. BC Housing acknowledges it would never place families with children in a project like this, but they think nothing of having this development less than 20 metres from an elementary school, a daycare, and a toddler park.” 

The coalition expects BC Housing’s proposed rezoning to come before city council this spring.

“BC Housing and the City of Vancouver need to go back to the drawing board and work with the neighbourhood to find a project that actually works,” noted Grant. “We have other supportive and social housing projects in Kits and they work because they fit and they are the right scale and operating model. The resources in this neighbourhood are designed for children and families, so why not look at women and children, or single parent families, where there is an obvious and very real need? That sort of project is a better fit for 7th and Arbutus and would certainly help with an urgent need.”

Media contact:
Trevor Pancoust